What brings me to write? I guess it would have to be stillness, peace, a blank sheet of paper and not a single other worry or thought in the back of my head besides the ideas I hope to put down permanently. Only problem is, I have a lot of nagging thoughts and ideas that so easily distract me from the creative process.
Thinking about it, this is something which has affected me throughout my life, going back as early as elementary school. Before I could concentrate on my classwork, readings, or even nightly homework, I’d have to make sure everything of mine (things as well as thoughts) were organized and set aside just so. All of my pencils were in the pencil case, all of my assignments and important reminders were laid out in my daily planner, and all of my chores were taken care of, and not a single thing lay unattended before I could concentrate. If not just so, the urge to finish these other minor tasks before approaching the big task at hand would be too much, and instead of getting the important thing done, I’d distract myself getting every other duck in the correct order.
I believe the term for this is “procrastination”, but also in some not-so-selfish way, I think it’s important to have the mental calm and clarity that comes with tying up every single nagging loose end and task before being able to embark on a hero’s journey of a project. I believe that for me, my hero’s journey, my epic life-changing and all encompassing critical endeavour, would be writing (both words and website code as well as music) with a lot of reading mixed in. I’ve aspired to do and have practiced all of these things for quite a while now in my life, to varying degrees of success, but my perchance for procrastination has been a constant battle in my life, almost always winning out to my nobler intentions.
As an adult, your distractions are almost all up to your discretion, and this little fact makes the bigger problem of being a procrastinator all the more frustrating. If it weren’t for all of the minor tasks in my life I still haven’t wrapped up, I could truly live life to its fullest potential! Though I shouldn’t get too down on myself, for the other “minor” projects in my life have been massive efforts on their own to organize myself and my personal resources, so as to make those resources more effective in my everyday life and to give those resources long-term viability.
Since I’m a digital native (not my favorite term, but appropriate if you know me), many of these resources come down to data. Whether it be a digital collection of music, a burgeoning library of eBooks, reels and reels of digital photos to sort through and curate, gigabytes of my own recorded audio begging to be sampled, lines of web code yearning to be implemented, or physical books and vinyl records, recording gear, synthesizers, drum machines, or whatever else I come across in my existence, I possess these things as well as the desire to make them effective for my purposes. And while something like a collection of synthesizers and audio production gear might be a more recent addition to my stable of things, I’m constantly researching, implementing, succeeding, failing, and learning the best ways to make these resources the most useful they can possibly be.
At some point I will wrap these tasks up (organizing my backlog of a music collection, slicing up all my audio, synchronizing my eLibrary with my digital devices, etc) and those organized resources will serve me in my actual hero’s journey in achieving my ultimate goals, but up until the point where the backlog has been sorted though, those nagging projects will remain and will take away my time from the thing I see as my true purpose in life. I’m eternally fixing the sail, scrubbing barnacles off the hull, and stocking the boat with supplies all the while dreaming about my maiden voyage that I’ll take, someday. Frustrating to say the least, but hey, getting things prepared so that they are exactly to your liking is also what a large part of life is all about.
The good news is, over the course of the last 30 or so years, I’ve learned a great deal about what works and what does not work for many of these tasks. While many still remain incomplete, I’ve also learned how these projects affect my life, how they influence my ability to handle the things that really matter to me, and most importantly, I think I’ve honestly found the path forward in term of how to complete and in what order to complete these projects such that each incremental task leads to less distraction, less procrastination, and more productive outcomes.
My biggest endeavor at the moment is organizing the hundreds of gigabytes of digital music I’ve amassed over the years. I will be layout out my process for how I’m doing this correctly now and how I’ve attempted to do it in the past, but long story short, a digital media library is nothing if it’s not appropriately tagged and labeled with useful meta information. I used to believe that having 7 entries in my library for the same artist with a jumble of mistagged genres was something I could get past, but as it turns out, there is a brighter future when a collection is correct and your data is as spotless as possible.
This is a task that has taken me years to approach correctly (I can’t tell you how many battles I’ve fought with iTunes since high school), but the good news is that I’m well on my way to actually completing this effort despite the challenges and setbacks. Only a thousand or so more albums to go, but as a consolation for my ego, I’ve tasted the fruits of my labor, and they are sweet, savory, and even a bit funky.
Being a music nerd, it seems almost like a no-brainer that laying down this major plank of my life would need to come first in order for me to build a foundation for success at some of the other projects on my list. Not only do I want to have my library accessible so I can listen to all this music, but I need a well sorted archive so I can curate my smaller personal library of tunes I use while DJing and performing. Though tedious, and at times downright infuriating, accomplishing this feat of digital organization will allow me to procrastinate less and focus more on the actual business of DJing (as opposed to spending my time mired in re-tagging songs, finding incomplete or corrupt tracks, or coming to realize that all the time spent re-tagging and cataloging my music didn’t do a damn thing since iTunes had not save those tags anyway).
Being well past 50% of this project has me encouraged, and although dim, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the most encouraging fact for me is that I’ve been able to come up with a solid and reliable process for getting all these tedious ID3 tags, and my larger music collection, straightened out. And although it has taken me so much time to come to find that process, those hours and days were not at all wasted, they helped me further refine my process and discover what works, what does not work, and what technical challenges exist (both well know and completely unknown).
Life, like all the minor tasks that make it up, demands a refined process for existing to one’s fullest potential. Those who have achieved their goals in life while making it all seem effortless are the ones who have done the most rigorous job in planning and executing their vision. While luck is many times a factor, do not ever discount the work and effort involved in getting things just so, and do not shy away from the work involved even if it looks like a never ending process, for as you knock out all of the minor accomplishments in life on your journey to achieving the bigger goals that feeling of achievement (and the very fact that your work has been realized in a particular resource that will contribute to your success) is a proud milestone along the pathway towards greater horizons.
Oh, and it will help you focus more on the things that matter most.